Daily Archives: September 8, 2011

NYPD Commissioner Calls for More ‘Boots On The Ground’

Says Holiday Weekend Gun Violence Shows Obvious Need For Additional Cops

cbslocal.com | Sep 6, 2011

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It was a terrifying Labor Day weekend of violence as 67 people were shot in New York City. It came on the heels of the NYPD dealing with alarming spikes in murder, rapes and robberies in some neighborhoods.

It was no wonder then why Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer in an exclusive interview he needs more manpower.

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“It’s less safe than usual. There should be more protection in this area, more police officers, should feel safer, you know, so people can feel safer,” said Raquel Carzenas of the Bronx.

“When I go out late at night to get something or get something at the supermarket I do feel a little scared, so I might be a little anxious maybe I might get shot,” added Michael Mayne of the Bronx.

“I think it’s unsafe because there are little kids here, so, yeah, we can’t expect no better,” added Kim Gabbidon.

People from the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx spent part of their Tuesday reflecting on crime and street safety after eight people were shot at a neighborhood party Sunday — eight of the more than five dozen people hit in an alarming spate of gunplay that began on Friday.

The incidents prompted Commissioner Kelly to wonder what life would be like with more cops.

Kramer: “Do you have a list?”

Kelly: “I’d like to have more cops. We’re down about 6,000 police officers from were we were in 2001.”

The police commissioner said he understands the Wall Street meltdown and the recession have made it hard to avoid budget cuts, but he told Kramer he hungers for a larger police force.

“There’s nothing like having the old boots on the ground as they say,” Kelly said.

The NYPD has made huge advances deploying all kids of modern technology, but the commissioner said, “Technology is good but cops are better. I’d like to get additional resources. It is unlikely given the state of the economy that that’s going to happen.”

Although crime is way down since he took over the Department, there has been a recent uptick in murders, rapes and robberies in some areas — like a 400 percent increase in murders in tony Williamsburg. So he is looking forward to the new 1,600-member cadet class hitting the streets in January.

“They’ll make a… make a difference,” Kelly said.

There has been a double-digit overall decline in crime since Kelly took over the NYPD in 2002, but recently the Department is also coping with crime spikes — like a 400 percent hike in rapes in Sheepshead Bay.

NYPD Installs Portable Watchtower In Harlem

NYPD: No Plot on 9/11, But Acting Like It

9/11 security calls for major presence at former twin tower site.

nbcnewyork.com | Sep 7, 2011  

By Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz

The NYPD has no evidence of terror threats against New York City for the anniversary of Sept. 11, but is taking precautions as if a plot is underway, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday.

Information uncovered at Osama bin Laden’s compound after his death shows al-Qaida considered attacking trains on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

“For that reason alone, we need to take precautions as if an actual plot is under way,” Kelly said.

Starting Saturday night, the NYPD plans to form a frozen zone around the World Trade Center site ahead of the Sunday ceremony.

Thousands of extra officers will descend on the area, and the security also will include 450 surveillance cameras trained on the site, Kelly said. Manhole covers will also be sealed.

The World Trade Center gathering is one of more than 30 commemorative events scheduled for the week that the department is laboring to protect, Kelly said.

“We don’t presume that ground zero alone is a potential target,” the commissioner said. “That would be shortsighted.”

The department also will deploy “quick strike reaction forces” to respond to potential threats outside Lower Manhattan, Kelly said. The teams include officers in heavy armor, bomb squad technicians and hostage negotiators who will have highway patrol escorts on standby if needed.

New Yorkers will see more officers in the subways as well. Many will concentrate on busy transportation hubs such as Grand Central Terminal, Pennsylvania Station and the Herald Square subway station.

There are other security concerns: Extra patrols also will be deployed in Queens for Sunday’s U.S. Open tennis finale.

And the department is gearing up for next week’s U.N. General Assembly, working with the Secret Service to protect 130 heads of state and coordinate 220 motorcades, Kelly said.

“In other words, we have a lot on our plate,” he said. “But we have the talent and the resources to deal with it.”

Ex-NYPD Cops Sentenced in Perfume Warehouse Heist

Checo and LeBlanca entered the warehouse in Carlstadt on Feb. 9, 2010, brandished guns and badges and yelled, “NYPD! Hands up!”

nbcnewyork.com | Sep 7, 2011  

Two former New York City police officers and another man have been sentenced for their roles in the armed holdup of a northern New Jersey perfume warehouse last year.

Thirty-year-old Kelvin Jones of Yonkers, N.Y., who prosecutors described as the bandits’ ringleader, was sentenced Wednesday to more than 16 years in state prison.

The other former officer Brian Checo, a 26-year-old New York resident, got more than six years.

Another man involved in the robbery, 33-year-old Gabriel Vargas of New York, received a 5-year term.

According to prosecutors, Checo and LeBlanca entered the warehouse in Carlstadt on Feb. 9, 2010, brandished guns and badges and yelled, “NYPD! Hands up!”

Garcias, Gabriel Vargas, and at least one other man then showed up and helped the cops restrain nearly a dozen In Style USA employees, securing their hands behind their backs with plastic ties.

At one point, one of the alleged robbers told the store employees that they were performing a routine “inspection” of the storage facility. When one of the employees asked why they had to be restrained if the inspection was “routine,” he was taken aside to speak with one of the men involved in the operation, who flashed his badge and ordered the employee to hand over any surveillance equipment used by the facility along with any cash in the company’s cash drawer, according to the complaint.

The victim complied, turning over the equipment and about $3,000 to $4,000 in cash that had been in the cash drawer.

While the officers and two others engaged in the armed robbery, four other men, along with more than a dozen day laborers apparently hired to assist in the operation, loaded hundreds of brown boxes, all containing various types of perfume, into trucks the suspects had rented in advance of the operation, according to the complaint.

Once the trucks were loaded, two of the defendants named in the complaint drove them away.

Carlstadt police arrived at the warehouse at about 9:30 p.m. after receiving a 911 call. They arrested two of the suspects and seized two trucks that contained hundreds of boxes of perfume inventory meant for sale in New York and other national and international locations — about $1 million worth.

U.S. Army Ordering Weaponized Kamikaze Suicide Drones


Switchblade is Go Aerovironment

PopSci | Sep 7, 2011

By Clay Dillow

The idea of small, man portable, soldier-launched aerial drones has been catching on for some time now with military operations commanders, as they bring the unique situational awareness and reconnaissance capabilities of larger drone aircraft down to the platoon–or even the individual–level. Now, the U.S. Army is taking the idea to the next level, ordering its first batch of weaponized drones capable of launching from small, portable tube and suicide bombing a target from above.

The drone aircraft are made by Aerovironment, the same California company that makes the Nano Hummingbird surveillance drone (the one regular readers know as a PopSci favorite). Their “Switchblade” drone packs neatly into its launch tube, which then packs easily into a backpack. When it’s time to deploy, soldiers quickly set up the launch tube and send Switchblade skyward, where its wings deploy and its quiet electric engine fires up.

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From there a pilot can operate the Switchblade remotely, using a video feed from the drone to pilot it and make observations of a potential target. If the target is confirmed, the pilot can arm the on-board munition and fly the drone straight into the target. The drone can fly piloted or autonomously (though naturally it has to receive human commands before arming and attacking). It can even power down its motor and glide in for the kill, offering mission operators a stealthy means of approach.

Switchblade

While a weaponized robotic aerial kill vehicle sounds cool enough on its own, what Switchblade really offers is a capability–it can loiter overhead and observe a situation on the ground, confirm that a target is indeed a legitimate target and not a civilian or some other non-threat, and then deliver a strike without the soldier who deployed the aircraft ever having to stick his head out. Such a capability trumps calling in airstrikes or artillery fire for small targets, and perhaps best of all it’s a capability available at soldier level.

Antibiotics May Be Permanently Altering the Guts of Humanity


Clostridium difficile Destroy too much beneficial gut bacteria with antibiotics, and this little bug takes over, causing what’s known as Clostridium difficile disease.  Marcus007 via Wikimedia

“Overuse of antibiotics could be fueling the dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and asthma, which have more than doubled in many populations.”

– Martin Blaser of NYU’s Langone Medical Center

PopSci | Sep 7, 2011

By Clay Dillow

If you’re one of those people worried that the over-prescription of antibiotics is leading us toward biological calamity, you’re not going to like this. Writing in the journal Nature this week, Martin Blaser of NYU’s Langone Medical Center makes the case that antibiotics aren’t just leading to highly resistant superbugs, but that they are permanently altering our bacterial microbiomes, and not for the better.

Our microbiomes are the collection of bacterial microbes that we carry around with us all the time, those symbiotic little bugs that live on our skin and in our esophagi and–very importantly–in our guts. And while we’ve long known that a cycle of antibiotics prescribed to kill off an infection can also kill off some of our most important beneficial microorganisms, the general line of thinking is that once the cycle of antibiotics ends our microbiomes correct themselves and the natural order of things returns.

Blaser presents arguments otherwise in an editorial that suggests that our gut bacteria is permanently affected by a cycle of antibiotics, and that the impact is so profound that it might be time to seriously consider not giving antibiotics to anyone other than very young children and pregnant women.

Full Story

Antibiotics: Killing Off Beneficial Bacteria … for Good?

Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness

Reuters | Sep 4, 2011

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study.

With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden — measured in the hundreds of billions of euros — as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down.

“Mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge of the 21st century,” the study’s authors said.

At the same time, some big drug companies are backing away from investment in research on how the brain works and affects behavior, putting the onus on governments and health charities to stump up funding for neuroscience.

“The immense treatment gap … for mental disorders has to be closed,” said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany’s Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

“Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with the appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies.”

Wittchen led a three-year study covering 30 European countries — the 27 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway — and a population of 514 million people.

A direct comparison of the prevalence of mental illnesses in other parts of the world was not available because different studies adopt varying parameters.

Wittchen’s team looked at about 100 illnesses covering all major brain disorders from anxiety and depression to addiction to schizophrenia, as well as major neurological disorders including epilepsy, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

The results, published by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ENCP) on Monday, show an “exceedingly high burden” of mental health disorders and brain illnesses, he told reporters at a briefing in London.

Mental illnesses are a major cause of death, disability, and economic burden worldwide and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease across all ages.

Wittchen said that in Europe, that grim future had arrived early, with diseases of the brain already the single largest contributor to the EU’s burden of ill health.

The four most disabling conditions — measured in terms of disability-adjusted life years or DALYs, a standard measure used to compare the impact of various diseases — are depression, dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, alcohol dependence and stroke.

The last major European study of brain disorders, which was published in 2005 and covered a smaller population of about 301 million people, found 27 percent of the EU adult population was suffering from mental illnesses.

Although the 2005 study cannot be compared directly with the latest finding — the scope and population was different — it found the cost burden of these and neurological disorders amounted to about 386 billion euros ($555 billion) a year at that time. Wittchen’s team has yet to finalize the economic impact data from this latest work, but he said the costs would be “considerably more” than estimated in 2005.

The researchers said it was crucial for health policy makers to recognize the enormous burden and devise ways to identify potential patients early — possibly through screening — and make treating them quickly a high priority.

“Because mental disorders frequently start early in life, they have a strong malignant impact on later life,” Wittchen said. “Only early targeted treatment in the young will effectively prevent the risk of increasingly largely proportions of severely ill…patients in the future.”

David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacology expert at Imperial College London who was not involved in this study, agreed.

“If you can get in early you may be able to change the trajectory of the illness so that it isn’t inevitable that people go into disability,” he said. “If we really want not to be left with this huge reservoir of mental and brain illness for the next few centuries, then we ought to be investing more now.”